The African tourism industry had its fair share of ups and downs in the past one year 2013. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to update this blog as often as I would have wanted. Today’s blog post is a recap (and link round-up) of some of the most memorable events and happenings in 2013. I hope to post more frequently in the year 2014.
For ease of reference, I have organized the recap under the following sub-headings:
- Wildlife and Conservation
- Hotels and Lodges
- Air Travel
- Other Noteworthy Events
If you notice any bias towards East Africa, or more specifically Kenya, please bear with me; That’s the region I am closest to.
Wildlife and Conservation
2013 was not the best year for African wildlife. The year saw the seizure of some of the largest hauls of smuggled elephant tusks in decades. This includes more than 4 tons seized in Mombasa, in addition to other huge hauls in Singapore and Hong Kong. The seizures themselves were a positive sign in the fight against illegal ivory. But they also point to the massive scale of elephant poaching across Africa.
Talking of poaching, it is not just the elephants that were on the receiving end. Rhinos too were not spared. As at November 2013, a total of 891 rhino had been poached in South Africa alone. The official figures for Kenya stood at 35 in August, with the highest profile incident being the poaching of a white rhino in Nairobi National park, one of the best protected areas for rhinos. Malawi too was not spared. Just a few days ago, the country lost three of its black rhinos to poachers.
Poachers are getting more creative in their evil ways. In July, they killed around 300 elephants in Zimbabwe’s Hwangwe National Park, through cyanide poisoning, an incident recognized as one of the worst elephant massacres in history.
Ironically, threats to our wildlife sometimes comes from the very people who should be at the conservation forefront – our governments. In the quest for economic growth, governments at times make decisions that jeopardize conservation efforts. Like the agitation by some powerful politicians, to construct a road through the Bwindi Impenetrable National park, one of the most important remaining homes for the endangered mountain gorillas. Although this has not yet been approved, it is reminiscent of an earlier attempt in the year 2010 to construct a highway across the Serengeti in Tanzania.
The decision by the Tanzanian government to go ahead with Uranium mining within Selous National park, is yet another example.
Hotels and Lodges
2013 saw the expansion into the East African market, by several international hotel groups. The most notable hotel developments in the region include:
The establishment of the Billionaire Resort in Malindi, by Flavio Briatore.
The setting up of Africa’s first underwater hotel room – in the Manta Resort in Pemba, Tanzania.
The opening of Sir Richard Branson’s luxury safari camp in Masai Mara – Mahali Mzuri
Entry into Kenya of the international hotel chain – Best Western – with one new hotel in Nairobi, and one in Mombasa
Further expansion of the Kempinski brand in Africa, having opened a hotel in Nairobi, and one in Masai Mara. The hotel chain plans to open other hotels in Rwanda and Ghana, in 2014.
There have been several good tidings in the African airlines space, among them the plans to re-establish a national carrier for Zambia. Although these plans have been there for several years, the Zambian government seems determined this time round. 2013 also saw the rapid expansion of Rwandair, in a region where three airlines dominate: Ethiopian Airlines, South African Airlines, and Kenya Airways.
Within Kenya, the KCAA have reinstated the license of Jetlink, a low-cost regional airline, allowing to resume operations after it closed down last year.
Perhaps the biggest dark spot in the African airline industry was the fire that burnt down part of the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi, causing the airport to be shut down and flights to be diverted to other airports in the region.
The saddest security event was the terror attack at Westgate shopping mall in Nairobi, during which more than 70 people died. Admittedly, this was a major setback for the Kenyan tourism industry in 2013. We look forward to a safer and better 2014 as Kenya remains one of the best destinations for an African safari, as attested by the World Travel Award it won.
Other Noteworthy Events
Nelson Mandela, the most respected leader in Africa (and probably in the whole world) passed on Kenya held peaceful elections in March, despite fears of a repeat of the 2007/2008 election violence.
Northern regions of Kenya and Uganda experienced a hybrid eclipse of the sun, an event that attracted many local and international visitors
The rift valley lakes in Kenya have experienced a massive rise in the water levels, a situation that has forced the migration of flamingos and other water birds, and has been of great concern to many observers.